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Elk Grove Citizen

Gum Papers Show Early Life in Fair Oaks

Oct 07, 2021 12:00AM ● By By Thomas J. Sullivan

Citrus Heights Historical Society receives material documents from Betty Reed. From left to right: Larry Fritz, president of the Citrus Heights Historical Society; Betty Reed, 83, a surviving niece of Irving Gum holding a folder with Wilma Aspholm's "My Yesterdays" and CHHS vice-president Teena Stern. Photo by Thomas J. Sullivan

Gum Papers Show Early Life in Fair Oaks [5 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

FAIR OAKS, CA (MPG) - A collection of personal photos and historical papers of an early Fair Oaks founding family, Irving and Claudia Gum, former owners of 107 acres at the corner of Madison Avenue and Kenneth Drive offers a special look into what early life in Fair Oaks and Orangevale was like from the mid-1880s.

In its history, Gum’s farm produced corn, strawberries, and hay. His pumpkin patch, called U-Pick Pumpkins, was a popular autumn destination. He remained an active farmer and rancher well into his 90s.

Irving Gum died in 2015, and his wife Claudia passed away in 2017. The couple had no children. Proceeds from the sale of the Gum Ranch property were given to the Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Sacramento, per the couple’s wishes.

Known as the Gum Family Collection, the historic materials were officially donated to the Citrus Heights Historical Society (CHHS) in September which accepted them from Rio Linda resident Betty Reed, 83, a surviving niece of Irving Gum’s first wife.

The highlight of the collection is a single-spaced, typed 237-page diary written by Irving Gum’s older sister, Wilma.

Irving Gum was born in 1919 and his sister Wilma in 1922. Wilma married Al Aspholm, a close family friend of Irvings’, and had one son, Tom.  When she and Aspholm later divorced, Wilma married again, and moved to Washington state with her second husband.

According to Larry Fritz, president of the Citrus Heights Historical Society, Wilma’s son, Tom, has since passed away, leaving no family heirs. Wilma’s diary remained with Irving and Claudia Gum until it was passed on to Betty Reed.

Reed and her family continued to be friends with the Gum family throughout their lives. “He was my Uncle Irving, and I loved him very much,” she said.

Upon formal receipt of the Gum collection, CHHS president Fritz, and CHHS vice-president Teena Stern, a California state archivist, presented Reed with a copy of Wilma’s original diary as a keepsake for her generous donation.

Reed said she donated the collection to the Citrus Heights Historical Society because she was very fond of her Uncle Irving and Aunt Claudia throughout their lives, and said she wanted to see that their family legacy be properly preserved. 

Before Claudia Gum passed away in 2017, she gave Wilma’s personal diary and four banker’s boxes worth of family photos, and other material to Reed.


Reed said she enjoyed discovering memorable family stories and anecdotes about her Uncle Irving and their shared family history as she read Wilma’s diary. The historic materials illustrate the broader family tree which connects the Gum and Rusch families.


The diary tells how Fred and Julia Volle, Wilma’s maternal great grandparents originally came to Citrus Heights in the 1850s and how Perry and Lilly Gum, Irving and Wilma’s parents, first arrived in Fair Oaks in 1895.


A black and white family photo likely taken in the 1920s shows Irving in the center with his father, Perry Gum and his mother, Lilly Rusch-Gum. Wilma and Irving also had a brother Glenn.


Herman and Amelia Rusch were Irving and Wilma’s maternal grandparents. One of their daughters, Lilly, was the mother of Irving, Wilma and Glenn Gum.


When Herman married his second wife, Amelia Volle, he left his two younger children, Fred and Julia, from his first wife, Julia Volle (another Volle daughter), to be raised by their namesake grandparents, Fred and Julia Volle which is how they later came to inherit the Volle Ranch, where Rusch Park in Citrus Heights is now.  

Wilma writes about spending weekends with her aunt and uncle, Fred and Julia Rusch, at their home on Antelope Road"'the historic Rusch family home that is now preserved as a museum in Citrus Heights. Wilma was fascinated by their electric refrigerator, which was very uncommon for the time, and describes eating homemade ice-cream at the Rusch home, a popular treat for many visitors to their home.

Today, the Murphy bed frame which once Wilma slept in, is still in the Rusch Home, exactly as Wilma described it as a child.

The four boxes which were donated by Reed contained a “treasure of material,” said Fritz.

The Citrus Heights Historical Society, working with the Fair Oaks Historical Society and the recently formed Orangevale History Project are working to identify people who are depicted in the historic photographs within the collection, Fritz said.

Several large, faded sepia tinted panorama photos taken outside the original wood-framed Orangevale School dating from the 1930s have a complete list of student names inscribed on the back.

“Between the two groups, we’ve scanned about 120 to 130 items,” Fritz said. “We still have a way to go.”

The Heritage at Gum Ranch, a new housing community developed by Elliott Homes, is under construction on the south end of the Gum Ranch property, northeast of Bella Vista High School, adding 250 new homes to the area. The community’s main entrance, off Kenneth Ave is named Gum Ranch Road.

Ralph Carhart, chairman of the Fair Oaks Recreation and Park District (FORPD) Board in an earlier news interview said as part of their development of The Heritage at Gum Ranch community, Elliott Homes will build Gum Ranch Park, which will be dedicated to the Fair Oaks Recreation and Park District (FORPD) upon its completion.

Acres of native oaks were saved in the area adjacent to Arcade Creek where the late Claudia and Irving Gum formerly sold pumpkins and provided hayrides through the pumpkin patches. The protected oak woodland is incorporated as nature walk areas.

The new Gum Ranch Park will have numerous amenities, including an open turf play area, a toddler lot designed with rubber safety material, a spin merry-go-round, a water play area, a wooden climbing structure, an outdoor fitness complex, picnic pavilions with tables and BBQs, and various paths and benches.